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Bush shares Olympic moment

RON FOURNIER, Associated Press writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Bush, linking patriotic and Olympic virtues at the Winter Games, said Friday the competition will help the nation and world overcome the Sept. 11 attacks and deal with “a difficult struggle” ahead.

“We believe that these ideals — liberty and freedom — make it possible for people to live together in peace, and the Olympics give the world a chance in the middle of a difficult struggle to celebrate international peace and cooperation,” the president said in remarks prepared for an Olympics reception.

The president, who stopped in Denver for a farm speech before flying to Utah, opened the Winter Games in ceremonies broadcast worldwide from the chilly Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium.

Beforehand, he met U.S. athletes in a session also attended by four members of the New York Port Authority, the two-state agency that lost 37 employees in the World Trade Center collapse.

A tattered American flag found at the World Trade Center was being displayed for Bush in a wooden case during the athletes’ meeting. Later, it was headed for the opening ceremonies.

Olympics organizers initially balked at flying the flag because they said the international Games should not become overly focused on the U.S. attacks.

Aides said Bush, who did not weigh in on the flag controversy, views the Olympics as a metaphor for the ideals that helped America recover from the attacks and launch a global war against terrorism. Bush believes the athletes at the Games reflect the same virtues displayed by firefighters, police and others who dealt with the attacks, aides said.

“All people appreciate the discipline that produces excellence, the courage that overcomes difficult odds and the character that creates champions,” Bush said in remarks released by the White House.

At the opening ceremonies, Bush was on the field for the singing of the national anthem and opened the Games with remarks traditionally delivered by the host nation’s leader. Bush said: “I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Winter Olympic Games.”

For the bulk of the opening ceremonies, Bush sat in an open-air skybox with political and Olympic officials. Temperatures were below freezing.

Afterward, he flew to Jackson, Wyo., to spend a wintry weekend at the home of Roland Betts. Betts and Bush were classmates at Yale University and partners in the Texas Rangers major league baseball team.

A Democrat, Betts was a major donor to Bush’s presidential campaign.

Bush planned to discuss health care during a trip Monday to Wisconsin, the White House announced Friday.


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